Schubert: Symphony No 9 in C major, D 944 (Great)

Reviewed on Mon 29 Oct, 2018

Marisa Jansons balances his forces to a nicety, grounding the music in a strong bass line, placing the notes where he wants them to be and shaping the phrases to convey the messages implicit in his interpretation.

Mariss Jansons doesn’t exactly steal in. He turns the opening eight-bar horn call marked piano into a forthright statement, and though he acknowledges its three-note pianissimo at the end, the tempo is faster than the specified Andante. A hint that he believes the music speaks of a composer defiantly fighting illness and depression comes to a head as the movement reaches its main part; and here there might be a contradiction. Allegro ma non troppo ('but not too much') is indicated yet the time signature is two in a bar. Jansons unequivocally feels it as a swift Allegro with no slowing down for the E minor second subject; and is also aware that, Scherzo excepted, the other movements are similarly timed. Sensing high drama he evokes it with distinction, balancing his forces to a nicety, grounding the music in a strong bass line, placing the notes where he wants them to be and shaping the phrases to convey the messages implicit in his interpretation, for example the tenderly expressed 14-bar section for cellos (8’45”-9’30”) in the slow movement. All repeats, including the rarely heard one of the finale’s exposition, are observed. Jonathan Nott (Tudor, with SACD as a plus factor) is as punctilious in his equally individual performance. Readers who wish to look further afield have Willem Mengelberg (1940), Wilhelm Furtwängler (1953), Arturo Toscanini, Adrian Boult, Hans Rosbaud, Günter Wand, Colin Davis, Simon Rattle and Iván Fischer (also in SACD). It’s a distinguished legacy, now extended by Mariss Jansons and Jonathan Nott, complementary and superb.
–Nalen Anthoni